by Greg Bear
• Page count: 18
Blood Music is a 1983 award winning science fiction novelette by Greg Bear. It is about a scientist who injects himself with billions of tiny biological computers, and then gets nervous when they start changing his body.
Blood Music follows the story of Vergil Ulam, a brilliant and obsessive scientist who works for the biotech corporation Genetron. When the company discovers that he has secretly been developing his own brand of self-aware microscopic “biochips” they take away his lab and fire him – but not before he can inject himself with billions of the little buggers! Vergil then hooks up with his old college friend, Edward, who is now a doctor. Together the two of them examine the changes the biochips are making to Vergil’s body, and then try to figure out a way to stop them.
I think one of the most amazing things about this story is the fact that it was written in 1983! Sure, its easy to imagine this scenario now-a-days, what with nanotechnology and all, but Greg Bear really was ahead of his time when he wrote this incredible story. My favorite part of this hard scifi story comes at the end, when I finally realized what kinds of things the biochips were capable of doing. A scary yet excellent tale of what the future may hold.
Blood Music won the 1984 Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette. (A novelette is slightly longer than a short story.) It was also nominated for the 1984 Locus and SF Chronicle awards, as well as the 1999 Locus All-Time award.
Greg Bear expanded this story into a full length novel in 1985. Also called Blood Music, the novel was nominated for the 1986 Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novel.
“You don’t understand me, Edward. Look at the image again. I’m not damaged.”
“Look, there’s thickening here” – I indicated the ankles – “and your ribs – that crazy zigzag pattern of interlocks. Broken sometime, obviously. And-”
“Look at my spine,” he said. I rotated the image in the video frame.
Buckminster Fuller, I thought. It was fantastic. A cage of triangular projections, all interlocking in ways I couldn’t begin to follow, much less understand. I reached around and tried to feel his spine with my fingers. He lifted his arms and looked off at the ceiling.
“I can’t find it,” I said. “It’s all smooth back there.” I let go of him and looked at his chest, then prodded his ribs. They were sheathed in something tough and flexible. The harder I pressed, the tougher it became. Then I noticed another change.
“Hey,” I said. “You don’t have any nipples.”
Where you can find Blood Music:
• Blood Music first appeared in the June 1983 edition of Analog.
• It was included in Greg Bear’s book of short stories and essays Tangents.
• Blood Music has also been included in Gardner Dozois’s The Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Year’s Best Science Fiction.
• You can read it online for free at baenebooks.com.
Did you know that Greg Bear, the author of Blood Music, has won a Nebula in every category? Yep – learn more about this great science fiction author on his web site.
If you liked this story you may also enjoy A Walk In The Sun by Geoffrey A. Landis.